THOUSANDS of disabled people’s jobs and careers are at risk due to Government failures in managing the Access to Work scheme, which provides grants to help people at work, says a national charity.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is now demanding the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) makes drastic improvements to the scheme after finding that In December 2022 there were 25,103 outstanding applications, an increase of more than 10,000 in 12 months.
The charity claims the lengthy delays, often as long as six months, are also leading to many job offers being withdrawn for many blind people.
David Clarke, RNIB Chief Operating Officer, said: “We are calling on the Department of Work and Pensions to take decisive and comprehensive action to cut the backlog urgently.
“RNIB has repeatedly raised concerns about their ongoing inability to administer the scheme since December 2021. Six months is far too long for people with sight loss to be without support with many having job offers withdrawn or finding their careers in limbo due to the delays.”
Access to Work can pay for a range of support, including support workers, adaptations to work premises and specialised equipment. The scheme also pays for travel to work where there are no practical public transport alternatives as well as awareness training for colleagues.
Mr Clarke added: “We have met with the DWP on numerous occasions to discuss the delays, but little progress has been made and the situation is rapidly worsening with 15,000 outstanding applications in December 2021 rising to 25,103 in December 2022.
“The DWP needs to provide adequate resources to Access to Work so that support is put in place within four weeks of any application and claims are promptly processed.?
“The department could at the same time make efficiency savings by stopping their practice of making people go through an unnecessary renewal process if their needs haven’t changed. They could also extend support packages while people are seeking a renewal, rather than suddenly cutting off support altogether as sometimes happens at present when a renewal is delayed by their own system.
“The steps taken so far by the DWP to address the problem are clearly inadequate and RNIB believes that the ongoing delays in administration of the scheme are so significant as to risk being unlawful.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Our priority is to ensure everyone entitled to support through Access to Work has their claim progressed as soon as possible.
“We have recruited additional staff to meet customer demand, which has already improved processing times, and a new digital claims process is being tested to help customers better track progress of their claims going forward.”
- We have seen improvements in the length of time customers have been waiting for a decision since the recruitment of additional people onto Access to Work. We continue to prioritise those customers who have a job start in the next 4 weeks.
- Once grants are approved, customers source their support or equipment and we aim to clear every claim received within 10 working days of receipt. We have been hitting this ambition on all but a few days when there have been delays caused by reasons beyond the Department’s control.
- Access to Work has received a significant increase in applications over the last year and we have recruited new staff to meet the increased demand and reduce the time it takes to make decisions.